Thursday, 22 March 2012

James Ivanhoe Cullip 1894-1918

Names often hold a fascination for me.  When I discovered that my great uncle, James Cullip, had Ivanhoe as a middle name, I immediately wanted to know more about him.

Born in 1894 in East Finchley, north London, James Ivanhoe was the eldest son of James Cullip, a labourer, and Ann Esther Hardwick.  He grew up with one brother and seven sisters!  It must have been a noisy, chaotic household.  This family of ten moved several times but always within the same two terraced streets of East Finchley where everybody knew everyone else.  The children's neighbours were uncles and aunts, half-uncles and cousins. In fact the census for both 1901 and 1911 shows that, in most cases, the children grew up in the same streets as their future spouses.

East Finchley, 1912
In 1902, along with two of his sisters and his brother Tom, James was baptized at the local church, Holy Trinity in East Finchley.  He was seven years old; it must have been quite a family event.  I assume that he had some schooling as a child, though, as the 1911 census reveals, by the age of 16 he was working as a 'gardener nurseryman'.  And that's all I know about his young life.

At the outbreak of the war in 1914 James was 20 years old but doesn't appear to have signed up, or been conscripted, for another two years.  His service record is one of the many which were destroyed in World War Two.  His medal card however, shows that he received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal which were earned by those who saw service after January 1st 1916.

James became a Gunner in the 140th Hammersmith Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.  The RGA were responsible for the heavy artillery, the units who were positioned behind the trenches bombarding the enemy lines with their howitzers and 60-pounder guns.  This battery first saw service in France in April 1916.  I need to make a trip to the National Archives to find out exactly which battles he was involved in, and where he was stationed.  What action did he see?  Nevertheless, James did survive the war and returned home to England.  And this is where the tale takes a tragic turn.

On 27th October 1918, two weeks before the Armistice, James married Dorothy Lucy Bagley at the Holy Trinity Church in East Finchley, the same church he had been baptised in.  The Bagleys were relative newcomers to the area.  Dorothy's father, Levi, was a local fishmonger and butcher.  For James and Dorothy however, married life was to be cut short in its infancy. Less than a week after the wedding James was dead, a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic which cut young men down in their prime.  One can only imagine how utterly distraught Dorothy must have felt.  Her new husband had survived two years of an atrocious war only to be taken from her in a matter of days at a time when they should have been enjoying newly married life.

James is buried in the East Finchley Cemetery, just across the way from the terraced streets where he spent most of his short life, and is remembered on the War Memorial there.  It's ironic that James was to travel to France, endure the dreadful conditions of the Western Front, only to lose his life in his own backyard...

East Finchley Cemetery War Memorial

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